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James R. Stout

The Bully Oof

            I suppose we all had at least one when we were growing up. One what, you ask? A self-appointed tormentor. Otherwise known as a “bully”. Bullies have been around since the beginning of time. During my years from about 8 to 14 there were three different guys that I was bullied by. In all three cases the bully was bigger than me by a good bit and each of them were essentially serial killers in training. Hey, that’s the way I see it. The first experience that I had with a bully was a guy named Teddy Williams. He was two years older than me, about a head taller, and outweighed me by a good 30 pounds. He had a sadistic streak that may have inspired a few Stephen King characters.

            We had just moved into a new neighborhood and it didn’t take us long to find out that the William’s were the bosses of the neighborhood. The first night after we moved into the house Mr. and Mrs. Williams came down to introduce themselves to my parents. Mom and Dad initially thought it was such a friendly neighborly gesture. Hmmph! As they all sat at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee Mrs. Williams stops the small talk and sets the tone of things to come.

            She looked at my parents and said, “We mainly wanted to come down and tell you how we do things around here.”

            Mom and Dad were too shocked to say anything. They simply exchanged glances. After the William’s left, Mom and Dad were left to wonder if they had made a colossal mistake moving into the neighborhood. Teddy was an only child. A very spoiled only child. The bullying started simply enough. I would be walking by their house and Teddy would start pummeling me with china berries. This soon escalated to blocking my way and verbal threats. Before long he was punching me in the arm, tripping me, and basically finding as many ways as he could to torment me. Then one day he made a mistake.

            I was outside playing in the vacant lot next to our house and Teddy comes over and stands on my feet, effectively immobilizing me. Then he acted as if he was going to punch me in the face and I lifted my arms to block the punch. Only he didn’t go for my face. He hit me in stomach with all the power he had. I doubled over in pain but didn’t cry. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. Teddy had about 10 seconds to enjoy his handiwork. What he didn’t know was my older sister had come outside to tell me it was time for supper. She witnessed the whole thing.

            Debbie was a bonafide “Tomboy”. She was a year older than Teddy and already 5’ 6” tall. She could run faster than, climb a tree faster than, and kick a kickball farther than any kid in the neighborhood. While I was recovering from the sucker punch to my gut, Debbie ran over and told Teddy he better not do that again.

            “What are you gonna do about it?” Teddy quipped.

            Debbie didn’t say a word. She just hauled-off and punched Teddy in the stomach. A punch that most certainly would have caused Batman to say, “Oof”. She was my hero. Teddy was now bending over clutching his stomach, gasping for breath, and doing something that I had not done. He was crying. This single act was enough for me to never again be afraid of Teddy. The most hilarious thing about the entire incident was when Teddy’s mother and father came down to complain to my parents about their son being “assaulted” by Debbie. Dad got the story from us and with a bit of a grin told the William’s to pound sand. Well, he didn’t say those words, but you get my drift. You would have thought that Teddy’s father would have been more embarrassed over his son being beat-up by a girl. I didn’t have any problems with Teddy after that. Mainly because Debbie had told him that if he bothered me again, then she would bother him again. Like I said, she was my hero.

            I won’t go into the other bullying cases. They were typical kids’ stuff. I will tell you how bullying came to an end for me. It was about 4 years later. There was this kid named Greg who was a bully-wannabe. He didn’t really have the makings of a bully though. But he sure wanted to be one. I was walking home from the grocery store one day. It was the summer of my 14th year. I saw Greg coming from the other direction and I pretty much groaned because he was always trying to be bully to other kids and I just knew that he would try something. I wasn’t afraid of Greg a bit though.

            Greg sees me and starts bouncing up and down on his toes with excitement. No doubt he thought he was going to have some fun. My plan was to ignore him if possible. But Greg wouldn’t be ignored. He blocked my way on the sidewalk and said something mean. I don’t remember what it was, but I feel sure it was lame. That’s when he made his mistake. He reaches out with his right arm and starts to push me on the shoulder with his right hand. Dad had shown me a few self-defense moves and this was a perfect time to put one of them into use. I grabbed his right hand and pretty much bent it backwards at an angle no hand was ever meant to be bent. Greg went to his knees and started to scream. I kept the pressure on his hand and then Greg started pleading with me to stop. He was saying things like, “I was just kidding” and “I didn’t mean anything”. A little more pressure and he was going to have some broken fingers, but I’m not a sadistic guy. I wasn’t then and I’m certainly not now. I simply told him that he should re-evaluate how he treats people. You know what happened over the next few months? He tried to be my best friend. I’m sorry to say that I had to disappoint him on that goal. But he was always very polite to me after that.

            Now, to tell you the truth, I have never been prone to violence. I learned some self-defense moves and if someone were to try to harm a loved one, then I no doubt would meet violence with violence if necessary. Even that little run-in with Greg didn’t inspire in me a desire to be violent. It’s just not my nature nor does it meet the standards that I try very hard to uphold. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I won’t let someone hurt me or my loved ones. I am a peacemaker at heart. If I can talk someone into being reasonable, then that is my goal. What I worry about these days is how much violence is witnessed by our children. When I was a kid, we watched cowboy movies and there were gunfights and so forth. But when someone was shot, we didn’t get to see the gore that is depicted in movies today. I have to some degree enjoyed the Avengers movies over the past decade. But besides being over-the-top unrealistic, the violence is way too much. These are movies that kids flock to see in record-breaking numbers. All of this violence is stealing our children’s (in my case, grandchildren’s) innocence. And we’re not even talking about the obscenities they are subjected to with language and sex.

            I’m not a diehard censorship advocate, but I do believe that the standards should be readjusted for the kind of movies that children are allowed to see in public theaters. But that’s just a small part of the problem. It’s what the parents allow the children to see that bothers me. Not all parents by any means, but far too many. When my grandchildren come to stay with me, and we watch movies I show them movies from a library of movies that I have purchased especially for them to see. I show them old Disney movies like “Pollyanna” and “The Parent Trap” (the original one). They loved watching “The Incredible Mr. Limpet”, “National Velvet”, “The Three Lives of Thomasina”, and “That Darn Cat”. Besides good entertainment in those movies, they also get an age appropriate perspective on good guys and bad guys and good versus evil.

            Let’s let children be children. It’s not just movies either. We shouldn’t give a child free and unmonitored access to the internet. I hope I don’t have to explain why. The same goes for social media. I know that I sound like an old fogie. So what? As a grandfather I have a big responsibility to help my grandchildren grow into good and decent adults. I am so fortunate that my children are doing the right things in raising my grandchildren. And I do my part to reinforce this and to set an example for them. I am blessed to have 5 wonderful and beautiful granddaughters and I take seriously my part in showing them a better way than what the world wants to show them. I challenge you to do the same. Together, we can make a difference in their innocent lives and the future society, a society in which they will one day be the adults.

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